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Declaring Independents

The Best Damn Music You May Never Hear, unless...

E.J., Maggi & Pierce float the Thames

If you think that the heart and soul of the music industry has vanished, join the growing crowd. Comments berating offerings from major labels flow like flood waters these days, and for good reason. The few music corporations left (they have been eating one another like ravenous beasts, in case you haven't noticed) seemingly have no game plan beyond throwing music against the wall, buying up any viable competition and throwing legions of lawyers into the fray with their various and sundry briefs regarding file sharing and intellectual properties. Survival it may be, but the cost in terms of a cohesive buying public is growing and one wonders how many small 'hit' labels they will have to buy in the future to keep the wolf from the door.

No matter, really, because while the major label battles gain intensity, the heart and soul of the music has moved underground. Major artists have discarded major labels for their own or maybe smaller labels which allow them more artistic control. Local and regional musicians have scrounged nickels and dimes to record their own projects, to build their own home studios, to network and create the atmosphere of growth. The growth of homegrown music, spurred by the digital revolution and corresponding evolution of the Internet, has handed us all a wonderful opportunity to explore. Think of it! Music available from the artists' hands (sometimes with the artists' own artwork and packaging), or available through websites which (the major labels shudder!) hand a larger portion of the proceeds directly to the artist. To the person who really loves music and not just the latest offering of today's chosen superstar, it is a veritable Valhalla!

Of course, the size of it may seem a bit daunting. How many musicians are there out there? Hundreds? Thousands? How do you find them? How to separate the wheat from the chaff? Well, how did they find out about music before the Internet? Magazines, music forums (the modern version of talking with friends), or simply talking with people--- my God, there is a world full of people out there to contact! The websites which sell the music sometimes provide samples. Though limited, that alone can give you an idea of what the music is about. The thing is, if you really want to find the music, you can. Maybe these pages can help.

This world of the independents is not as hard to master as one would think. I fell into it by simple contact with an old friend (I did not know him, but knew his music well) who told me about his daughter, also a musician, who told me about.... Well, you get the picture. The domino effect took over and, whereas I once was frustrated in my search for the best, I now find myself practically inundated with music worthy of any major label and even more exciting because, amazingly, each discovery was and is a fluke and a minor miracle. Names like Jess Pillmore, Gileah, Audrey Martell, and Maggi Pierce & E.J. now dominate my playlists, along with CDs from old friends like Bill Pillmore, Cargoe, and Space Opera. And more present themselves every week.

The question you have to ask yourself is basic. Is it about the music? If you can honestly say it is, maybe it's time to learn how to find that which should be able to find its way to the top of the primordial ooze of the music business. In fact, why not start here, for these are some of the artists I have uncovered (or been turned on to), each worthy of a listen at the very least. Do I truly believe in these artists? Let's put it this way. If I owned a label, I would do everything within my power to sign them.

Who knows? Maybe your next gem is hidden in these pages. Happy hunting!

SCOTT BOYER--- Scott Boyer has spent his adult life (and part of his childhood, come to think of it) with some sort of musical instrument at hand. From the 31st of February through Cowboy and The Decoys to today's Capricorn Rhythm Section, he has consistently produced great music. Here, he talks about the forming of The Capricorn Rhythm Section with Johnny Sandlin, Paul Hornsby, Tommy Talton, Bill Stewart, Lee Roy Parnell and, occasionally, Bonnie Bramlett.

CAPRICORN RHYTHM SECTION--- The somewhat unknown (these days, at least) legends of Capricorn Records take the stage and explain through their music why the label was more than just The Allman Brothers and Marshall Tucker. A two night party hosted by Scott Boyer, Tommy Talton, Paul Hornsby, Johnny Sandlin and Bill Stewart with comrade-in-arms Lee Roy Parnell. You'll wish you could have been there!

GABRIELLE GEWIRTZ--- Gabrielle's second album, Wide, is a giant leap for her. Rooted previously in what I guess you might call Americana, she steps way beyond here, using rock as a base for jazz, folk and pop. A promising songwriter with a fine voice. If you're ever in New York, look for her!

GILEAH--- Gileah's music is quiet and personal, a look inward at love and life. With intriguing voice and phrasing, she creates beautiful music to which we can all relate. Perfect for late night or early morning.

THE GRIP WEEDS--- Not many bands have a grip (no pun intended) on psych/pop as do The Grip Weeds. Hooks galore and phenomenal writing, not to mention very impressive guitar and keyboard work, make this album a must get. Beautifully produced and recorded.

(Perry Jordan &) HEARTSFIELD---Jordan has rescued and updated one of the best country rockin' bands from the '70s and given us all a musical boost. This version of Heartsfield picks up where the original left off. When they're not shitkickin', they're kickin' ASS!!!

GREG LASWELL--- !!! BASED UPON THE NUMBER OF SPINS AND PURE ENJOYMENT FACTOR, LASWELL'S THROUGH TOLEDO IS MY PICK FOR THE 2006 ALBUM OF THE YEAR!!! Laswell has bounced around the music business for awhile now, having most recently been involved with artists on his Twenty Inch Records label. He goes it alone here, producing power pop with the sensitivity of an early Jackson Browne or Bill Quateman. Melody, harmony and hooks: Food for the soul!

JENN LINDSAY--- Lindsay is a semi-acoustic power-popper with a manic twinge. Both of her latest efforts, Uphill Both Ways and Perfect Handful are well worth a listen and, in my opinion, will easily pass the test of time. Great stuff!!

MAGGI, PIERCE & E.J.--- This trio from Philadelphia blindsided me with a three-discer titled Silver and I went out and bought (with cash money!) every disc they had available. From pop to power pop to folk to psych and beyond, these guys play it all and with a touch that has to be heard to be believed. I cannot say enough about them. Do yourself a favor and check them out!!!

AUDREY MARTELL--- Audrey is hardly a newcomer to the pop music scene, having had songs recorded by George Benson and Randy Crawford and providing backing vocals for the likes of Jewel, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and Paulina Rubio, to name but a few. Here, she stepped out on her own and created a pop music gem. Great voice plus great originals plus great production equals great music. Sample a few of her tunes at CDbaby.

BILL PILLMORE--- Bill Pillmore began musical life as founding member of pioneering country rockers Cowboy. Here, in his first recorded effort since those days, he slips back to his folk-rock roots. Great production by Dan Phelps.

JESS PILLMORE--- I was turned onto Jess by default (she is the firstborn of Bill Pillmore) and immediately became a Jess Pillmore fan. Her talent spans theatre, dance and music, all giving her compositions great depth. Again, superb production by Dan Phelps who also adds guitar licks supreme. Seriously, this lady is super!

EMILY WELLS--- Put Emily in the middle of a desert with a violin string and a stick and she will find a way to make good music. Her creative edge rivals MacGyver (it's a metaphor!) and her musical soul is bottomless. In a word (actually, a few), this lady is immensely talented!

STEVE YOUNG--- Young has bounced around the scene for decades, having haunted the streets of L.A. and Hollywood in the late sixties with the likes of Gram Parsons and Van Dyke Parks. Frustrated that labels have tied up his critically acclaimed recordings for most of that time, he set to correct the injustice by re-recording his most favored tracks. The resulting CD, Songlines Revisited Volume One, is masterful in its production and simplicity. A truly great artist and musician.

Rock gems from the past:
CARGOE/From Tulsa To Memphis & Back
Ardent's JOHN FRY/A 1975 Interview
NOTARY SOJAC/Pacific Northwest '70s Rock Legends
WHITE ELEPHANT/Jazz Had Hippies, Too!!!
STEVE YOUNG/Rock Alt. & Nails

More indies and rock history here.